Tag Archives: Donington National

Donington Downpoor

And so, the season has now run its full circle. It only seems like yesterday that we were heading out on track for the official test back in March. There were a few front running drivers not present on the Supersport grid and so a good result was possible, however, with 37 cars on the grid, that’s never guaranteed.

This was the first event of the season that I’ve only done the Friday test ahead of the weekend. Most of the time, by the morning of Friday I’m just turning in laps pretty much for the sake of it and often times not using all the sessions on offer. It was a strange feeling to try and compress my normal routine into one day but, in reality, it was more than enough to get up to speed.

As ever, I was around 1 second off of the ultimate pace on track, which was disappointing as I tend to go well at Donington, but I wasn’t too worried as I tend to keep to myself over testing and don’t try to chase a tow.

Come qualification, I knew there was a bit more to be had on track and with some careful traffic management, I managed to bag 4th place. It was a great feeling to be back at the pointy end of the field and it was almost a little strange to only see one row of cars ahead on the grid. Brings back good memories!

I made a reasonable start but Mike Evans and his normal rocket ship went down the inside into turn one. I didn’t compensate enough on the speed and, on cold tyres / track, drifted a little wide on the exit. This left an opening for few more cars and cost me some momentum.

By the end of lap one I was in 6th place and in a queue of cars from 1st down to 8th place. I was able to keep up nicely and felt strong. Some battling with Tim Dickens and Mike Evans ended when Mike lost the rear of his car into the old hairpin. I was therefore in a lead pack that was clear of the chasing drivers.

I bided my time early on, happy to wait for the carnage to ensue up front. Donington always leads to close battles and it’s almost impossible to break away due to the effect of the tow. However, the lead drivers kept it all clean and tidy and so there was no option but to try and move forward through the group.

Unfortunately, I miscalculated how much additional speed I would need to do this and also misjudged a few corners which left me too much to do. Tim Dickens found some of his Tracksport magic, and judged these last 10 minutes of his race to perfection. From a position behind me with 10 minutes to go, he’d managed to get to 3rd place by the chequered flag. This is something I’ve got to get better at and will work on my head over the winter to see what I can do.

6th over the line was the result but nose to tail with the entire lead group is better than I have managed this year to date. Although it was a little disappointing coming from the 4th in quali – I knew that was mainly due to other drivers getting blocked and me managing to get a good lap in.

The forecast for Sunday was for rain. I was really looking forward to the race and really felt positive about moving forward. A wet track is something I love and it’s the first propper one we’ve had this year. Off the line and around the first few bends, the visibility was absolutely dire. The worst I’ve ever experienced. I literally couldn’t see the track and the only marker for the correct direction was other cars around me.

Once the queue settled down, I was in around 8th place. I moved forward to around 6th place but at that stage I realised that my car setup was hopelessly understeery around Donington. I’ve made changes through the year to correct oversteer in the car and unfortunately, by doing so, I’ve created a car that can’t corner in the wet. I was something in the order of 5mph slower than I needed to be mid corner and so wasn’t able to compete as I’d hoped.

Whilst others were throwing the car off the track, I was just holding on hoping the track would dry a touch. That wasn’t to be and by the flag I ended up 6th again.

Whilst this was still an OK result, it was a missed opportunity and by the time all the scores had been totted up, I ended the year in 8th place. A couple more points would have seen me in around 5th…

Not a bad season overall and certainly the most competitive grid by a long way in my career to date.

Although funds are now non-existent and debts are growing – I have also decided to do one more year before likely having to hang up the gloves and recover my finances. This now means some busy winter time getting ready for 2017 and I’ve promised myself that I’ll do more to be competitive next year. I much prefer fighting for podiums – I know I have it in me and I want to get back up there spraying the champaign and taking home more pots for the shelves.

2016 Caterham Supersport is go

Finally got my first outing in the 2016 Supersport version of the Cheesemobile. It’s got a touch more power, a touch less flywheel and a good deal more sideways potential with the limited slip differential.

I got to try it out in all manner of different conditions through the day – which was ideal. No real setup work possible due to each session having completely different conditions but I loved how the car felt.

My neck and shoulders are killing me after such a long period of no driving – but hopefully they will all be fixed in time for the next outing at Snetterton.

Counting the days!

Thanks to SnappyRacers for picture.

The racing begins

It’s been quite some weekend! Firstly it’s been bloomin hot. From the test day on Friday, all the way through to the race on Sunday, the sun has shone it’s heart out and roasted a whole lot of drivers and spectators!

At the test day, I finally got to meet up with Michael Downing from Roadsport. He put together a brilliant blog last year for his Academy season and I know he’s been following along this blog from the beginning as well so it was nice to finally have a face to face and share stories!

Testing went OK and I knew I’d be on the pace come race day. This was a relief as the previous day at Donington had been soaking wet for the majority of the track time. I spent different session playing with different tactics and techniques.

Into the weekend proper and it was a long, hot, wait for the qualifying session. The nerves really began to kick in as the time approached. Getting kitted up and strapped in got the heart going like a hard gym session! My session didn’t go exactly to plan. It was looking good initially, with Nick Horton along for a play and to help each other with a tow, but Nick then had a spin, leaving me all out alone on track. I didn’t quite hook up a good enough lap in clean air, so tried for a couple more, but this left me deep in traffic as I caught up some spinners and slower cars. There was no gap on track either ahead or behind. Just as I found a good bunch of cars to work with, the session was over.

Third on the grid was the result – which was a great outcome and kept me at the sharp end for the start of the race.

I was far more relaxed on raceday itself. The party the night before had ended in a late night/early morning beer drinking session Henry and James. It was a great evening but it did take until mid morning to shake off the groggy feeling!

A couple of Uni friends joined my sister and dad to watch the race. It was nice to have them along and, as the race itself turned out to be a stormer, I’m glad we all put on a show for them!

From lights to flag, it was extremely close up front, with Nick, Henry, Dan Livingstone, Dan Wade and myself all going tit for tat. Considering it was everyones first ever race – it was pretty incredible to be a part of.

At the start, Nick managed to select reverse gear instead of second (I don’t know how you do that!) so dropped back. I got through turn one in second behind Henry and we managed to pull a gap. At that point, I really wanted Henry to work with me to solidify this gap – but he went ultra defensive and it was only a matter of a lap or two before Nick and Dan had pulled us back in and now we had a lead pack of four.

Again, the battling went on with places swapping all over the place. Dan Livingstone can, I think, could himself a lucky boy, as he overtook under yellow going through McLeans and didn’t return the place back. He was initially excluded from the results for this move but the Clerk of the Course accepted that Henry re-taking the place back at Redgate was enough to let him off.

All this shenanigans still meant we were slowing each other down and that meant Dan Wade could join in the party. Lead pack now of 5 cars.

After Dan Wade missed his braking spot into Redgate and spun avoiding my rear end, it was just the four of us left going into (what transpired) was the last lap. I completely missed the last lap board so had no idea!

Into Coppice (second last bend) I decided to take a slightly wider line in, to try and get a slingshot out onto the back straight. However, it was far more slippy out on the wider line and the back-end stepped out pretty sharply. Once I’d got that under control, the tarmac was at an end and I knew I’d be heading for the gravel. This isn’t a good thing – and I was extremely close to spinning to a stop on about 3 occasions as I tried to fight the car back to the track. If I’d spun at that point, it would have been race over, 0 points. I lost my 4th place to Dan Wade as I picked up speed once more and then, was thinking about chasing him down – when the realisation that the chequered flag was now out hit home and I knew that I’d thrown away a good chance at a podium right at the end of the race.

It was a complete mix of emotions on the cool down lap. I was initially gutted that I’d thrown away the position, I was sad that the race was over because it had been such a lot of fun but I was also incredibly happy to have been a part of such a great opening race. Everyone raced clean and fair. I only felt I’d been ‘weaved’ on once by Dan L and considering all that was going on, that’s pretty good going!

I did have an added nervous wait up at the Clerk of the Courses office. I didn’t know why I’d been called up there but there was a nervous queue of about 6 other racers all standing in a line, waiting to be called in.

As it transpired, he was just asking about a report of contact when Dan Wade outbraked himself into Redgate and spun. I think a marshal had reported that contact had been made – but neither myself nor Dan had felt any – and certainly the rear of my car was all in one piece! He also mentioned a four wheels off moment down at the old hairpin but said my race had been good and clean offered congratulations on my first signature.

So, that was the end of the weekend. A complete roller coaster of emotions. I loved the racing. Loved the fact it was hard but clean. Loved the social aspect (as ever!) But did come away feeling I hadn’t got the most out of the result. I’m happy with 5th but know more was possible.

I really want to be part of that podium celebration! It looked brilliant! Congrats to Nick, Henry and Dan on their result. Really looking forward to Brands Hatch in 3 weekends time. See you there!